Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels reached Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh with a ballistic missile for the first time on Saturday, in an attack which was described by the kingdom as “a blatant act of military aggression by the Iranian regime.”
Yemen’s Houthi-controlled defense ministry confirmed that its forces had targeted Saudi Arabia’s King Khalid International Airport with a long-range missile called the Burqan 2H, CNN reported.
The missile was intercepted and destroyed over northeast Riyadh, in proximity to the airport, and targeted civilian areas. It was the first time that the heart of the Saudi capital had been targeted since the kingdom intervened in the civil war in Yemen. The attack, therefore, marks a sharp escalation between the Saudi-led, Western-backed coalition that supports the legitimate government of Yemen and the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels.
In a statement released by Saudi state news agency SPA on Monday, the kingdom accused Iran of orchestrating the “act of war,” citing evidence that the regime in Tehran was behind the strike amid growing regional tensions. Saudi Arabia described the attack as a “flagrant military aggression by the Iranian-controlled Houthi militias” and claimed the that the examination of the debris “has confirmed the role of Iran’s regime in manufacturing these missiles and smuggling them to the Houthi militias in Yemen for the purpose of attacking the Kingdom, its people, and vital interests.”
The statement further noted that the Islamic Republic’s actions constitute a violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2216, which prohibits states from shipping weapons to Yemen’s armed rebel groups. It is further evidence of Iranian weapons being shipped abroad despite a UN restriction on arms transfers from Iran. The Islamic Republic has faced allegations in the past over violating the embargo in support of proxies in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, the Palestinian territories and Yemen.
Over the past six months, Kornet anti-tank missiles—a weapon possessed by Iran, but not part of Yemen’s looted stockpiles—have been reported on the battlefield, as have other advanced systems, including armed drones.
It has been three years since Iran has admitted its support for the Houthi rebels, and stepping up its support of the Houthis in Yemen’s brutal civil war, with the goal of consolidating power on the Arabian Peninsula.